HC Deb 22 June 1950 vol 476 cc1471-2
53. Major Beamish

asked the Minister of Agriculture why, and in what circumstances, one of his officers visited Lower Stoneham Farm, near Lewes, and, in the absence of the owner and employer, requested detailed information from the foreman regarding the personal characters of the employees; and whether he will give an assurance that he will not authorise any such further visits.

Mr. T. Williams

A wages inspector of my Department visited Lower Stoneham Farm on 4th May in the course of his duties. In the absence of the employer, he interviewed the manager who, he was given to understand, was authorised to give information about workers' wages. Some misunderstanding about the purposes of the visit appears to have occurred, for I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that the inspector did not make detailed inquiries about the personal character of the employees and that wages inspectors are required to restrict their inquiries to those which are necessary for the enforcement of the Agricultural Wages Act, 1948.

Major Beamish

Is the Minister aware that this bad case was further aggravated by the fact that his officer attempted to cross-examine some of the employees on this farm and checked the foreman's statement? Will he give an assurance that when he tries his experiments in super-snooping he will not try them in Sussex?

Mr. Williams

The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot be aware that wages inspectors have had this power since 1924, and that no Conservative Government disposed of them. These inspectors not only conduct inquiries where complaints are made, but, occasionally, they have a test inquiry. This happened to be a test inquiry in accordance with practice.